An evangelical looks at the “fathers”

The Church of Rome at the Bar of Historycor
By William Webster
The Banner of Truth Trust, 2003, 244 pages

The Roman Catholic church boasts that it has taught the same doctrines since the apostolic era through an unbroken line of papal succession. One of the church’s mottos is Semper Idem, “Always the Same.”  But even casual students of Catholicism know the church’s doctrines have been constantly evolving. As the early church became increasingly institutionalized, the preaching of personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ as found in the New Testament, devolved into impersonal rituals, ceremony, and religious legalism. When did the drift from orthodoxy start? In his letters to the churches, Paul warned the believers of false teachers and works religionists creeping in even back then.

Rome often appeals to the writings of the “Church Fathers” to support its doctrinal claims. But anyone who has studied the fathers knows its a mixed bag. The fathers include a long list of individuals writing from many locations over a four-century time frame. Their writings can often be interpreted various ways and have been used to support both Catholic and Protestant viewpoints.

In this book, evangelical William Webster compares the writings of the fathers to the theology of the Catholic Tridentine and Vatican Councils. Not being a historian or theologian and disinclined to personally sift through the writings of the fathers myself, I appreciated Webster’s efforts. Catholic apologists are faced with the dilemma that much of what passes for Catholicism today cannot be found in the writings of the early fathers. On the other hand, evangelicals would find some of the fathers’ theology, especially the later fathers, to be drifting into unorthodoxy and heresy. The moral of the story: Get your theology from God’s Word, not from the fathers.


  1. The Authority of Scripture
  2. Scripture and Tradition
  3. Tradition and Roman Catholicism
  4. The Papacy and the ‘Rock’ of Matthew 16
  5. Papal Authority and Infallibility: The Test of History
  6. Marian Dogmas
  7. Salvation and the Sacramental System
  8. The Eucharist
  9. Faith and Justification
  10. Truth: The Defining issue

2 thoughts on “An evangelical looks at the “fathers”

    1. This was the first book by Webster that I’ve read. Good information but definitely not a “page turner” for me. Also, while Webster made his case by selectively quoting the fathers, Catholics can do the same.

      Liked by 1 person

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